b. 1902, USA, d. June 1959, USA. Based in Los Angeles, California, USA, Jimmie Grier was subtitled ‘the musical host of the coast’ due to his big band orchestra’s enduring popularity in the region. The group was formed in 1932 after Grier had learned his craft alongside Abe Lyman, Georgie Stoll and Gus Arnheim. He recruited Stanley Green, Cliff Barber, Jimmy Briggs, Gordon Green, Art Grier (his brother), Dick Webster, Henry Jaworski, Frank Schumacher, Eddy Campbell, Hal Chanslor, Paul King, Jack Ordean, Jack Mootz, Everet McLaughlin, Clyde Ridge, Bill Hamilton, Wally Roth and Vince Dibari in his 17-piece orchestra, with a retinue of singers who included, at various times, Donald Novis, Ray Hendrix, Joy Hodges, Pinky Tomlin, Red Harper, Trudy Wood, Julie Gibson, Armide Whipple, Jean Taylor and Ed Morley. Playing nightly at the Biltmore Bowl in Los Angeles in the mid-30s, the band’s popularity was spread by radio appearances on both The Joe Penner Show and The Jack Benny Show. This fostered enormously popular Midwest tours of the leading ballrooms and hotels. The Jimmie Grier Orchestra recorded for Brunswick, Columbia and Decca Records under their own name, while also backing Bing Crosby, Russ Colombo and the Boswell Sisters in the studio.
While songs such as ‘Music In The Moonlight’, ‘Bon Voyage’ and ‘Ship Of Dreams’ were becoming staples of Midwest radio stations, Grier also busied himself composing movie scores. On one Midwest engagement he made the acquaintance of Pinky Tomlin, inviting him back to Los Angeles to record with the band. Tomlin’s composition, ‘The Object Of My Affections’, subsequently became one of the biggest hits of 1934. Tomlin also recorded ‘Don’t Be Afraid To Tell Your Mother’ and ‘What’s The Reason (I’m Not Pleasin’ You)’ with the orchestra. Grier finally finished his stay at the Biltmore in 1937, and toured widely instead on the lucrative one-nighter circuit. During 1942 he was enlisted as a volunteer for the Coast Guard, and became assistant band leader to Rudy Vallee with the official Coast Guard Band. He became leader when Vallee left, rising to the rank of Lieutenant before the end of the war. Immediately afterwards he regrouped his old band and took a year’s residency back at the Biltmore Bowl, but found the big band audience had dissipated. He began to work in Hollywood with a smaller combo instead, also spending a short time as a disc jockey. Still unable to recreate his pre-war glory days, he eventually gave up the music business altogether to move into real estate.